Great Resumes Fast » Interviews » References are Not an Afterthought

If you’re asked about your references in the job interview, do you have a few names ready?

Do you know what those people would say about you if they were called?

You need to know how to choose the best references, how to make sure they say fantastic, glowing things about you, and why it’s so important to the success of your job search. Many candidates hem and haw when asked about references even if they have spectacular ones. And when they’re asked what the reference will say about them, they stumble even more-because they don’t know, they’re wishy-washy. That’s unacceptable. If you’re an outstanding employee, you should have an outstanding reference. And if you don’t know what your references will say, and if you aren’t sure that they will tell the interviewer what they need to know to hire you, you need to prep your reference.

Choosing a Great Reference

When you are asked for your references, the interviewer wants the name and title of the person as well as what they did in relation to you. Past managers are the best references of all. But any reference needs to have strong credibility that speaks to your work life. That means you can have no references who haven’t worked with you. If you have someone in a supervisory position you didn’t actually work for, but who you worked with in a relevant capacity, that could be acceptable, too.

Prepping Your Reference

No matter who your reference is, they need to give you a strong, glowing, and above all, specific reference. You don’t want someone who will just give the dates of your employment and say something vague about how you were a good worker. To get a great reference, call those past managers and remind them of the work that you did overall, or on a particularly relevant project or two, and remind them of your outstanding attitude and ability and ask if they will represent that to a particular company who’s considering hiring you. Get them to be solid in what they’ll say about you, and that will give you more confidence when the recruiter or interviewer asks you about your references.

The references question can knock you out of the hiring process if you don’t answer it well. Remember, the job search is like a sales process. That means that your resume acts as a marketing brochure, and your references become a testimonial for how you, the product, are fantastic and how they can’t afford not to hire you. They are a critical piece of your job search strategy.

Guest author: Peggy McKee has over 15 years of experience in sales, sales management, sales recruiting, and career coaching. Her website, Career Confidential ( is packed with job-landing tips and advice as well as the practical, powerful, innovative tools every job seeker needs to be successful.

**We also recommend that you bring a reference sheet with you to the interview. This shows the interviewer that you are prepared, proactive, and very interested in working with them. It also avoids you having to go back and scare up some references later and the interviewer having to wait. When I was a hiring manager those candidates that were really a hit we would go ahead and call their references to decide if they were going to move forward in the hiring process. By providing references at the interview you’re assisting the hiring manager in actually hiring you – faster! Make sure your reference sheet is professional, polished, and concise.


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About the author

Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast

Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.

What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.

You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!

I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!


  1. […] also recommend that you bring a reference sheet with you to the interview. This shows the interviewer that you are prepared, proactive, and very […]

  2. Ed Han on October 19, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Gotta admit, I’ve been guilty of not doing this in the past & I need to be sure this is the last time I can say that.

  3. debbie on September 7, 2012 at 11:01 am

    I was wondering how many references would be appropriate.
    I have three and wasn’t sure if I needed more of if three is sufficient.
    Thank You

  4. Great Resumes Fast on October 2, 2012 at 10:03 am

    I think three professional references is common. I recommend adding more if you have them or including a couple personal references.

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